skip to main content


Title: Wellbore and groundwater temperature distribution eastern Snake River Plain, Idaho: Implications for groundwater flow and geothermal potential

A map of groundwater temperatures from the Eastern Snake River Plain (ESRP) regional aquifer can be used to identify and interpret important features of the aquifer, including aquifer flow direction, aquifer thickness, and potential geothermal anomalies. The ESRP is an area of high heat flow, yet most of this thermal energy fails to reach the surface, due to the heat being swept downgradient by the aquifer to the major spring complexes near Thousand Springs, ID, a distance of 300 km. Nine deep boreholes that fully penetrate the regional aquifer display three common features: (1) high thermal gradients beneath the aquifer, corresponding to high conductive heat flow in low-permeability hydrothermally-altered rocks; (2) isothermal temperature profiles within the aquifer, characteristic of an actively flowing groundwater; and (3) moderate thermal gradients in the vadose zone with values that indicate that over half of the geothermal heat flow is removed by advective transport in the regional aquifer system. This study utilized temperature data from 250 ESRP aquifer wells to evaluate regional aquifer flow direction, aquifer thickness, and potential geothermal anomalies. Because the thermal gradients are typically low in the aquifer, any measurement of groundwater temperature is a reasonable estimate of temperature throughout the aquifermore » thickness, allowing the construction of a regional aquifer temperature map for the ESRP. Mapped temperatures are used to identify cold thermal plumes associated with recharge from tributary valleys and adjacent uplands, and warm zones associated with geothermal input to the aquifer. Warm zones in the aquifer can have various causes, including local circulation of groundwater through the deep conductively dominated region, slow groundwater movement in low-permeability regions, or localized heat flow from deeper thermal features.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [3] ;  [4] ;  [5]
  1. Idaho National Lab. (INL), Idaho Falls, ID (United States); Center for Advanced Energy Studies, Idaho Falls, ID (United States)
  2. Smith Geologic and Photographic Services, LLC, Nathrop, CO (United States)
  3. Univ. of Idaho, Moscow, ID (United States)
  4. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
  5. Idaho National Lab. (INL), Idaho Falls, ID (United States)
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 0377-0273; PII: S0377027316300385
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 320; Journal Issue: C; Journal ID: ISSN 0377-0273
Research Org:
Idaho National Lab. (INL), Idaho Falls, ID (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
15 GEOTHERMAL ENERGY; Eastern Snake River Plain; Thermal groundwater tracer; Groundwater flow; Temperature distribution
OSTI Identifier: